Matthew Fisher’s career is centered around fun. For more than 20 years, he’s been working in graphic design and has been with Bellevue-based SmartLab Toys since 2015. As the senior designer, Fisher creates artwork for toy packaging, books, and materials for marketing, as well as offering some input on the toys themselves in terms of functionality, form, and color schemes. SmartLab combines STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) with award-winning toys that exercise kids’ minds — think science labs and detective kits.
“My main task is capturing the fun, excitement, and innovation of a toy in a single visual for the front of the box,” he said. “It’s a fun and challenging process that evolves constantly, right up until we release files for production. An average day for me includes a lot of research and concept design, along with a fair share of comic relief to offset a sometimes-heavy meeting schedule.”
As a cheeky joke, Fisher got a light-up siren for when the advertising team comes to him with quick-turnaround requests for design assets.
A few years ago, the company released MODO, which was designed to compete on the market with Play-Doh. SmartLab’s version has a slightly different feel and has no real smell, unlike Play-Doh. MODO was one of the products everyone on staff was excited about, but it didn’t take off the way they’d hoped.
Toys are a $28 billion U.S. domestic market, and the New York Toy Fair is the event for toy makers and buyers. SmartLab Toys attends each February to showcase its educational products, so Fisher designed pins donning some of the company’s toys to hand out as swag (stuff we all get). Pins are always a hit.
SmartLab Toys produces, on average, six to seven toys every year, and Fisher is responsible for designing the packaging. He’s often working on three to four products at any given time and starts sketching designs as soon as new or revamped products are conceived. Most of the design process happens about a month before the toy is released.
Squishy Human Body
All of SmartLab’s products have an educational component, and Squishy Human Body is one of its top sellers. “Maybe it’s because of the weird/gross factor,” Fisher said with a laugh. “It also teaches kids about anatomy.”